Just returned from a vacation and processed my pics. Then realized what I really use Lightroom for and it's mainly the advanced import function to be able to rename files into my preferred hierarchy:
Photos \ YYYY \ MM \ DD \ YYYYMMDD-HHMMSS-####

(Note: I would love suggestions to reform or simplify my naming hierarchy as for some reason I'm not in love with it)

Otherwise I'm actually really happy using Windows Live Photo Gallery to do some tagging, captioning, quick crops, red eye fixes, straightening, panoramas, etc. I prefer it over LR even.

This brings up two questions: 1) Is there an alternative (free / lightweight ideally) that would give me the import abilities of LR in a separate package? Ideally then I wouldn't have to open up LR at all. Or even as a plugin to Windows Live Photo Gallery? I'm open to another DAM (provided it does metadata properly in the file and not in some proprietary database). 1a) How nuts am I for really wanting my directories and filenames just so, no answer truly needed here, but welcome all the same :) 1b) Learning to be comfortable w/ a pre-packaged naming convention supported by Windows Live Photo Gallery or another "easy" DAM would be fine by me. 2) Instead would you suggest that I learn how to be just as fast using LR for these tasks? If so, any top resources you recommend?

Thanks for your help!

PS - Should note that I'm not much of a serious shooter, although I'm hoping to up my volume a bit; however am finding that I use my camera more and more since it's always on me. Might pop for a micro 4/3 which may get me back in the swing of things a bit.

  • Might need to clean up this question, and boil it down to a single question of "photo import alternatives to lightroom". Also, do you import RAW files or JPEG? – dpollitt May 7 '11 at 5:30
  • I would also like to know what brand of camera. if you use a nikon The Nikon transfer program (part of ViewNX2) works quite nice. I do not know if it will work on a cannon camera or other. but it works great for Nikon – mjrider May 7 '11 at 15:51
  • Currently using a Fuji F10 (old school, I know); jpeg only. Will likely add RAW and another brand soon when I buy myself a gift. – Sabowtage13 May 8 '11 at 1:53

Photo Mechanic has been among the favorite tools primarily focused on import and import automation for several years. If you simply want an import tool that is flexible and allows custom imports, I doubt you will find a more feature rich solution. That being said, it is not an editing tool, but one focused on import, especially multiple-card import and automation ( auto tag, multiple-destination copy, etc).

Since Lightroom, I no longer use specialized tools such as Photo Mechanic, Bibble, or heck, even Camera Raw. I barely use Photoshop any longer.

Now, to your second question. Can't say how nuts you are, as I think we all may be a bit bent for being such camera/photo geeks, but I suggest that relying on directory structure to provide you with information is so, well, DOS. Technically, you will be limited to certain characters, lengths, etc allowed by your current OS, and those same file names. Directories, etc may be truncated if you move or copy to a different OS. For example, do not copy your images to a FAT formatted disk, or older PC. And your camera won't be able to read them, not that I suspect that is an issue.

Instead, if you use tagging, collections, and IPTC metadata, you can gain much more flexibility. With Lightroom, I simply let the tool import with the default directory settings ( year, month date). I don't pay attention to this, as once imported, I add keywords, event and other info into IPTC tags, and then leverage Lightroom to create Smart collections, and to arrange images based on this info. So a set of images might be in 2011/May_3, 2011/May_2, and 2010/Dec_23, but in Lightroom, they are all in a group called Family Portraits.

The downside is this ties one to Lightroom a bit closer, but if you use IPTC, and embed the metadata in sidecars or even DNG, you should be future proof.

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  • Thanks for not commenting on how nuts I am :) Will have to explore more in LR to see how best to organize. One thing I like w/ free options (WLPG, Picasa, et al.) is the easy export to sites my family/friends use to see photos. LR can do it, just a bit kludgier IMHO. – Sabowtage13 May 8 '11 at 1:56
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    Also, hadn't heard of Photo Mechanic, and even though it looks good, $150 is hard to justify on top of LR. – Sabowtage13 May 8 '11 at 2:07

If speed is your main objective, you should really check out Bibble. The goal of that piece of software is to literally be the fastest DAM software on the market. This becomes very important for high volume photography shops, but since you are doing this more for fun, you might not want to spend that kind of money. Below I have listed some various other pieces of software that will do what you are asking, as well as much more.

Free Options:

  • FastStone Image Viewer
  • Windows Explorer
  • Picasa

Paid Options:

Overall I think that Lightroom is a fantastic option and you already have the best or nearly the best option. Although there is a reason why competition exists so that is why we have so many other choices in this market.

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  • I don't think any of these programs (at least the free ones) have good rename on import functions. but I will agree that if you have lightroom USE IT. it is by far THE BEST (or at least in my opinion it is) – mjrider May 7 '11 at 15:47
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    Thx, am tending to agree that having bought LR it's probably best to go ahead and start using it properly. – Sabowtage13 May 8 '11 at 1:54

Nothing wrong with the answers you already got but what you are looking for is probably RoboImport. This is a cheap file-import and renaming utility that can use all sorts of information to set the filenames on import. Actually they have a deal that gives you this software for free if you try another product, otherwise it's $40 USD.

The same company has a simple and very fast DAM software called PicaJet. They have a bundle with RoboImport to save you money on both, otherwise its $60 USD. This is the only DAM software I tried which comes close to the speed of Bibble Pro. You can read my review of it here.

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In addition to Nikon Transfer (again part of ViewNX2)

I have come across

but as stated above...if you own Lightroom, or have access to it, it is my personal FAVORITE by far

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    Thx, will check out Adebis as a backup. Hadn't heard out of that before. Convinced from others that I need to kick myself past the LR learning curve so it becomes my go to. – Sabowtage13 May 8 '11 at 1:57

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